HOUSTON -- As the Houston Texans prepare for the 2021 season, things will be different at NRG Stadium. Deshaun Watson is not expected to return, plus the team is undergoing a complete makeover on every avenue.
The downfall of a team that finished 4-12 one year ago actually began in the offseason prior. Former head coach Bill O'Brien shocked the NFL world when he elected to trade All-Pro DeAndre Hopkins for David Johnson and two draft picks.
O'Brien was fired four games into the season while Hopkins continued to produce with the Arizona Cardinals. Even before a snap was taken, people dubbed the move one of the worst NFL history.
Bleacher Report's David Kenyon seems to agree.
After winning AFC South titles in 2018 and 2019, the Houston Texans made the logical next step in the progression of building a championship contender: Trade your All-Pro receiver.
For some bizarre reason, head coach/general manager Bill O'Brien sent DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals in the spring of 2020. Hopkins had racked up 8,602 yards and 54 touchdowns in seven years with Houston despite some awful quarterback play during the first five seasons.
O'Brien only received running back David Johnson, a second-round choice and a swap of fourth-round picks in return. Worse yet, Arizona may even have considered cutting Johnson that offseason before somehow building a trade for Hopkins around him.
It should come as no surprise the Texans fired O'Brien following an 0-4 start to the 2020 campaign.
Hopkins immediately thrived as the new Np. 1 weapon for coach Kliff Kingsbury and QB Kyler Murray. He recorded a league-high 115 catches for 1,407 yards and scored six touchdowns. Hopkins was named to the 2020 Pro Bowl and earned his fifth All-Pro honor since coming out Clemson in 2013.
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With the 40th pick in hand, Houston traded the No. 57 selection to the Los Angeles Rams in exchange for Brandin Cooks. With the No. 40 pick, they selected TCU defensive tackle Ross Blacklock to boast the defensive line.
Blacklock struggled in Romeo Crennel's 3-4 defensive front. He recorded 14 total tackles and only started one game amongst the 15 he was active for. The 6-foot-3 defender is expected to move back inside under new coordinator Lovie Smith's 4-3 base in 2021.
Cooks did prove he was capable of being a No. 1 weapon with Watson. After a slow start, he became one of the hottest wideouts in the NFL, recording 81 catches for 1,150 yards and six touchdowns — the same number as Hopkins.
However, imagine keeping Hopkins and pairing him with Cooks instead of replacing him? Another AFC South title in reach? Perhaps.
Hopkins, 29, still is expected to be one of top pass-catchers in 2021. The verdict is out on Blacklock and Johnson improving, plus with an unknown at quarterback, who knows what Cooks' numbers will be?
The Hopkins move might not be the worst in NFL history, but it certainly is the worst in the franchise history. With so much change coming to Houston, having a top-tier target like Hopkins would ease the pain of a downtrodden season.
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